Home Talking to Islamic Migrants CREATED BY 7B
B A S S H I G H 2 012
Table of Contents Acknowledgments
Mrs Abbas’ Story
Acknowledgements Bass High School teacher Ms Koutzas wanted to create an oppor;<nit= for st<dents to inter-‐ act with their local communit= while meeting their histor= syllabus outcomes. Such an oppor-‐ ;<nit= arose in histor=, whereby year 7 st<dents were beginning a topic on Islam. Aﬅer consul-‐ tation with the class teacher Mr Kelly, it was decided that a relevant task for year 7 st<dents would be to focus on Muslim migHants’ interactions with the West. As this book has shown, this task has been an enriching exLerience for ever=one involved. Speciﬁcally, teachers decided to organise an oral histor= project where st<dents Oom Mr Kelly’s year 7 histor= class would interPiew Muslim AustHalians about their exLeriences as ﬁrst generation and second generation migHants. The Communit= Liaison Oﬃcer – IngHid Winter and the director of Bankstown Youth Development SerPices (BYDS) – Tim CarHoll, helped or-‐ ganise the following generous people to come to the school in order to be interPiewed by the year 7 st<dents: Zoubaida Abbas, Wafa Zaim, Amna Elghoul, Khaled Sukkarieh, Badih Habib and Hillal Kara-‐Ali. This oral histor= project allowed the year 7 histor= st<dents to develop their interPiewing and writing skills as well as increase their conﬁdence when interacting with members of the communit=. Last, and by no means least, this project allowed histor= st<dents to appreciate the breadth of events exLerienced by the diﬀerent members of the AustHalian Islamic commu-‐ nit= and their interaction and integHation into AustHalian societ=. 2
Wafa Zaim, a Lebanese born Australian Muslim, is the current Centre Manager of the Muslim’s Women’s Association, an association which she helped found in 1983. Both her and her husband decided to immigrate to Australia from Syria with their 2 children 30 years ago. When Wafa first came to Australia, learning English was not too difficult since she had a background in French. It was hard moving to a new country but she felt very welcome in her new neighbourhood at Georges Hall. She also felt very comfortable and at home when she moved to Belfield. Her and her family lived there for 7 years. Wafa’s neighbours in both Belfield and Georges Hall played a large role in Wafa feeling so welcome and at home in Australia. Although they did not speak Arabic, they made an effort to assist Wafa and her family in their settling. Wafa felt very safe in Australia and loved it because the landscape and weather reminded her of her home back in Lebanon. Wafa misses her family and relatives who are still in both Lebanon and Syria, but is glad she can keep in contact with them via the internet. She is able to contact 3
them much more frequently these days because of the introduction of things like Facebook and Skype. Wafa has travelled to many countries around the world but feels very at home in Australia. However, she did identify 2 main changes in the last thirty years since she migrated to Australia, one positive and one negative. One positive change is in the equity and accessibility of services in Australia. Exemplified in services for new migrants, interpreter services and access to government and non-government agencies. The main negative change involves the sense of safety and security people previously felt compared to now. People used to leave money at the front door for the milkman and the newspaper, whereas now you do not feel safe walking down the street after sunset. Wafa really enjoys her work at the Muslim Women’s Association because she has the chance to help and influence so many people in the community – both the Muslim community and the wider community. Wafa believes that education is very important, and is very proud of her own educational achievements as well as her children’s achievements. There are numerous Masters Degrees in the family. She was a private school teacher when she first came to Australia . When she became a Social Worker at the Muslim Women’s Association she organised English lessons, parenting classes and other social services for many Muslim women. Wafa has had many great experiences over the years and has enjoyed contributing to the Islamic and Australian community. Wafa also believes that multiculturalism in Australia is one of the country’s greatest achievements, due to the way it encourages belonging and integration in the community. 4
Khaled was born in 1964, in Lebanon and moved to Australia at the age of 14 in 1978. He had to get to Egypt with 5 siblings and his parents to get his visa to go to Australia. He felt excited and upset because he left his family and friends behind to come to a different country. Khaled learnt English in Brisbane and attended Oxley high school in Brisbane, where he lived in Milton a street away from Suncorp stadium. Khaled lived in Brisbane for a year before moving to Parramatta in Sydney with his family in 1979 where he attended school years 8-12. Multiculturalism was very good back then. He wants his children to embrace multiculturalism. His country has a lot of history and he wants his children to be proud of a having a Lebanese heritage. Although he has a new family in Australia he misses his grandparents In Lebanon. He has four sisters, with three in Australia and one overseas. Khaled also helps his local community by being involved in Islamic organisations. He is currently a project manager and a trainer. He volunteers in the Islamic council of NSW. He used to work for Telstra for 18 years but re5
cently his job was made redundant. As a child he wanted to be a lot of things like a football player and many more things but it was many years ago so he can’t remember. He recommends that everyone should have a goal and it is important to have a dream. He always thinks about his past and wonders what life would be like if he didn’t move to Australia. He felt strange visiting Lebanon because he has been in Australia for a long time. He went to Istanbul, Rome and Mecca, as he likes to travel a lot. In some countries there were mosques that were up to a thousand years old. Khaled likes to travel because you have the chance to meet different people from different cultures. Out of all the places he has travelled, his favourite place is Mecca and his favorite food is gelato. Khaled wants us to be grateful for what we have because there are poorer people that don’t have the education, clean places to live and food that we have. Lebanon and Mecca are Khaled’s favorite places. He remembers praying on the steps and street outside the mosque in Mecca, where there seemed to be millions of peopleat the Hajj (pilgrimage). Khaled has 4 children and encourages them to value education and to travel to Lebanon to learn about their culture and heritage. In Lebanon heexperienced many deaths and tragedies and he was very sad but helped when he could. 6
Badihâ€™sStory Badih Habib, a 57 year old man who migrated from Lebanon, does not show his years. Mr Habib migrated to Australia when the war broke out in Lebanon, where he worked as a teacher. As the war spread to his area he had the urge to move to a peaceful country and decided to choose Australia. He arrived here in 1977, at the young age of 22. He also decided to move to Australia because he had family here. Mr Habib first worked for a week in a carpet factory when he came to Australia. He later worked in an electrical business for 20 years. Mr Habib highly values education and now works as a Community Liaison Officer at Bass Hill Public School. This seems to be a very fitting job for somebody who values community and parental involvement in student education. Mr Habib has also been involved in countless parent information sessions and Parent and Community meetings at Bass High school, where he now is the Vice-President of the P and C association. He believes it is essential for parents to be involved in their chil-
drenâ€™s education and that requires them to support school events and attend information nights that would benefit their childâ€™s future. When he first arrived in Australia he had to gesture with his hands to make himself understood when buying food and water. This was a difficult experience at first, so he tried his best to learn English when he attended English classes. His English improved considerably and he was able to communicate without any problems, and now he is able to represent and interact with parents as they help their children at school. Mr Habib went to Lebanon for holiday in 2008. He misses many aspects of Lebanon, but he wants his children to stay in Australia because he has been in Australia for more years than he has spent in Lebanon and he believes there are more economic and social opportunities in Australia. Mr Habib likes the level of multiculturalism in Australia but believes politics should not be brought too much into the policy and the debate as this can cause tension
ent groups and identities in Australia.
Mr’s Abbas’ Story "س#$ ا)('&ة+,-
Mrs Abbas is a kind, polite woman who is the mother of current and former Bass High students. She is a gentle person, with lovely manners, and she was happy to share her story with us. Mrs Abbas was born in Lebanon and was one of 11 children. She moved to Australia at the age of 15, due to the civil war in Lebanon. She felt that Australia would be a safe place for her, and she was excited about coming here though sad to leave her family. She really looked forward to seeing the Opera House. After she had been in Australia for three months, she married. Australia was a chance to make a new life, and although there were difficulties living in a new country, and having to learn a new language and way of life, she believed that Australia would provide opportunities for her and her family that were not available in Lebanon due to the war. Children are a huge part of Mrs Abbas’ life, and it is not surprising to find that she has nine children. Raising her children well means everything to her and it is a full time job. The family spend most of their time together and on their farms. One of the main crops they harvest is tobacco. 9
Mrs Abbas believes that education is important, and she has taught her children to respect their teachers and to value education. Two of her sons are studying law and she is very proud of them. While the children are at school or university, she cooks and cleans. There is not a lot of time for other activities, but Mrs Abbas is very happy to serve the family. Cooking takes up a large part of her day, and a huge plate of food is prepared each evening to feed all eleven people in the family. As some people like different things, she often prepares more than one type of dish. Mrs Abbas enjoys weekends, where the family gets together with her brother or sistersâ€™ family for lunch. At these lunches, there are more than 20 children. Although she is only 37 years old, she has older children and one of them, Rayanne, is married and expecting a baby. Mrs Abbas is looking forward to being a grandmother. Mrs Abbas teaches her children about their religion, Islam, and how it is important to be kind and to do the right thing by others. She prefers that they spend time at home together, rather than going out with friends. Mrs Abbas is extremely generous. When she realised that some of the students had never tasted Lebanese food, she made us a delicious lunch of chicken, rice and nuts with a large bowl of salad. We wish that Mrs Abbas had been able to share the meal with us. She is such a friendly, caring person, and we are pleased that she shared her story with us. 10
Mrs Amna Elghoul is currently a Primary school teacher, who works
at Auburn Public School. She also works at the Muslim Women’s Society in her spare time. Overall she is a determined, intelligent and friendly woman, who has made valuable contributions to both her religion as well as her community. Her father came to Australia when he was in primary school due to the civil war in Lebanon. She has two small children, which makes them fourth generation Lebanese. Amna considers Australia her home and is excited about the opportunities that this provides for her children’s future. She hopes to integrate the Australian way of life with her Lebanese and Islamic heritage, because this is a major part of her life.
To begin her wonderful story we will start
with her struggles in the first years of her life. It all began in Auburn West Primary School and this was a bright beginning for her early life. There was no such thing as bullying or racism in Primary School. However, things changed by the time she got to high school. Amna believes that the tragic events of the September 11 terrorist attacks affected the way some people see Muslims around the world. She experienced and saw racism after the attacks on New York. 11
Amna believes the media has not always played a positive role in representing Muslims and their beliefs.
Moving to high school was a major event in her life. But it was unfortunately very hard for her, because back when she was a teenager, the image of Muslim people was dark in everyoneâ€™s mind. Even so, with her great determination and her familyâ€™s encouragements, she pulled through those difficult times. She did extremely well in her HSC, and continued her education by attending University.At university, she chose to be what she loved most, a Primary School Teacher. Her family placed little to no pressure on her and it was probably this reason why she also achieved great results at University. She once again, after finishing University, visited her old Primary School. This is where she began her teaching career. At present, as mentioned above, she still works at Auburn Public School. Her goal now is to make a difference to the thinking of the younger generation. In her spare time, she dedicated her talents and experience to the Muslim Women Society. This is where they provide ESL (English Second Language) classes for both adults and children and provide other important educational and social activities for Muslim women in the community.
Hillal â€™s Story Hillal is a 22 year old male whose parents came as refugees from Lebanon. They wanted to give their children a better life and escape the civil war in Lebanon. Australia was a peaceful country full of promise and opportunity. They have spent the last 17 years in Granville. It is Hillalâ€™s favourite place and this is where he attended school. This area feels like home to him. Hillal has plenty of relatives in Lebanon. He considers them to be very hospitable, but doesnâ€™t want to return there because he considers Australia home. He has created his own personal history here now and has many memories. It is no surprise that he feels that this is the place for his future family and ambitions. Hillal sees Australia as an amazing place due to its great diversity and many identities. He believes 13
the policy of Multiculturalism has worked well in Australia because it is a place where everyone is accepted for their uniqueness rather than be judged for being different from others. Hillal is proud of his family history and wants to preserve it and pass it on to his own family one day. Religion plays a major part in Hillalâ€™s life. It influences and motivates all his decisions. His belief in Islam impacts on how sees the world and the decisions he makes for his future. Hillal really values education. At the moment he is about to complete a Masterâ€™s degree.